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Thread: Balkan by Train (and bus)

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    Balkan by Train (and bus)

    So here's another travel-log thing from my recent tour around the Balkan peninsula, not by car this time but mostly by train and bus.

    Originally I had the idea to travel to Georgia (the other Georgia) by train, but due to the political situation in Turkey atm I decided to postpone it and start with something smaller.

    So two friends and I decided to start with the night train from Munich to Zagreb and then see where it might lead us to. We also booked the return train from Vienna to Frankfurt in advance, all the other tickets were bought locally.


    So it started early in the morning at Frankfurt's Main Station...

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    with the ICE train to Munich

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    lot's of typical german scenery along the way...

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    and with ocasional bursts of proper speed...

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    we reached Munich Main Station...

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    where we spent the day walking around the city.


    That evening, half past eleven or so, we boarded the sleeper train to Zagreb via Salzburg and Ljubljana.

    The coach was new and comfortable...and completely empty. We opted for the more expensive 3-bed sleeper compartment instead of a 6-bed couchette deal, wasn't really necessary.

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    We left Munich around midnight in heavy snow and went to bed quickly...

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    we awoke in the curves along the Sava river somewhere in the middle between Ljubljana and Zagreb.

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    It was sunny in Zagreb but still cold so early in the morning.
    We had some time to kill until our lunch-appointment with IceBone and so we had a look around town.

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    IceBone picked us up in the city and took us to the excellent Cevapi place somewhere in the outskirts. After that we had some time to kill again until 47 and family would join us for coffee. Killing time would be something we would have to do from time to time on this journey, mostly due to train schedules...and we got pretty good at it after some days!

    47, Maja and Gabriel took us to the stylish top of a highrise building which offered a full view around.

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    47 and company had to attend some other party and IceBone took us to a mountain top we saw from the rooftop viewpoint. There was also a castle looking over Zagreb, we reached it too late and had to break our way in

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    Thanks so much to IceBone for showing us around and thanks to 47 and family for the meet up!


    the journey will continue towards Belgrade in my next post!
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    Balkan by Train (and Bus) | Zastava 101 to Nürburgring | Espace to Kurdistan | MX5 around the Baltic Sea

  2. #2
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    We had lot's of time until the train to Belgrade would leave at quarter to midnight.

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    It was pretty rough, not only the carriage itself but also the service.

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    We had a couchette compartment this time, all to ourselves though.
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    It was a pretty uncomfortable journey, we started shortly before midnight, had two passport checks at the boarder (one for each country) with half an hour between them...and we arrived in Belgrade at quarter to six...not much chance for sleep..
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    Belgrade was pretty much closed still, the first cafes opened at 8 or so, we were homeless until 2pm when we could occupy the appartment...it was a very long morning...

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    Last edited by Beni; May 1st, 2016 at 10:35 PM.
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  3. #3
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    Impressions of Belgrade:

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    The unfinished cathedral

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    The ministry of defense, destroyed by Nato bombs back in the war

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    Crossing the Sava-River...

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    to the banks of the Danube.

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    Reaching the socialist living areas...

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    The brutalist Western City Gate

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    And onwards, we still had some hours until our next nighttrain would leave...

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    We boarded the sleeper coach to Bar at the Adriatic Coast in Montenegro

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    It was an old french carriage, comfortable and just how I pictured it to be. And we awoke in the mountains of Montenegro and the scenery was spectacular!

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    Onwards to Albania tomorrow!
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    The dirty old train windows offered a natural Instagram effect...

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    And we arrived in Bar near the coast in Montenegro in the morning...pretty relaxed!

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    We took the bus to Ulcinj where we would get the connecting bus to Albania.

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    We had two hours or so to kill and visited an empty beach.

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    And then a bus to Shkodera in Albania.

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    To see all those nice businesses along the highway...

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    Our bus to Tirana...the train wasn't really an option, there was only one connection before 6 in the morning between Shkodera and Tirana...

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    And the view from the nice appartment in the middle of Tirana...we had torrential rainshowers several times a day.
    Last edited by Beni; May 3rd, 2016 at 7:37 PM.
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    Impressions of Tirana...

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    The "Mother Theresa" boulevard built by the italian fascists.

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    The Envar Hoxha museum built by his loving people.

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    I passed by here two years ago and thought the infrastructure was making good progress...nothing has changed since then...

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    Hoxha was paranoid about a foreign invasion of his completely isolated country and built bunkers everywhere to protect it.

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    We had to take another bus, the train tracks were out of service.

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    Towards lake Ohrid we climbed up car-wash mountain...every house along the road had a hose infront.

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    Lake Ohrid looking a bit Norwegian.

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    Leaving the Albanian highlands towards Greece...

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  7. #7
    Beni's Avatar
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    We entered bear-country in Greece and drove into the night.

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    Next stop was Larisa in Greece...weather turned grey and rainy and I didn't take hardly any pictures of Thessaloniki as well. So on with Sofia, Bulgaria:

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    The Museum of Socialist Art

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    Downtown Sofia

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    It was cold and damp and not really that much to see, so we visited the National Palace of Culture.

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    And even found the Bulgarian Stig.

    On towards Bucharest tomorrow!
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  8. #8
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    Awesome trip! Looking forward to the Romanian part of the trip. It would have been nice if we were able to meet up while around here.

  10. #10
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    Consider me 100% jealous. Incredible photos of what must be a fascinating trip.
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  11. #11
    Beni's Avatar
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    We continued on to Romania then. Luckily there was a train leaving at a convenient time for this leg, it would take 12 hours though for less than 400 kms!!

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    It was an old GDR carriage, empty, cleanish and perfectly comfortable.

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    My friend here moaned at first when learning that the journey would take us half a day, but we all soon just relaxed and enjoyed it. All that night train journeys before had been long but we were of course asleep most of the time...this felt like a proper long (let's say slow) trip.

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    Of course not even Indian trains would take 12 hours for 400 kms, so there were two unnecessary stops along the way in addition to the border stop...first one in Ghosttown Bulgaria took two hours alone!

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    We bought some perfectly horrible sandwiches and stocked up on some perfectly fine cookies from the local factory.

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    At our next stop near the Romanian border, which was only an hour or so, we got a fresh and big Romanian Diesel locomotive and lost some carriages.

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    Still going towards Bucharest eventually we figured...
    Last edited by Beni; May 5th, 2016 at 10:20 AM.
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  12. #12
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    So we left Bulgaria...

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    ...by crossing the mighty Danube...

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    ...via a double decker steel bridge...

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    ...and entered Wallachia.

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    The sun was already setting and Bucharest was still more than an hour away, train took a huge detour, we were in no hurry of course.

    After checking in at the hostel we had a look around and found beautiful stuffed cabbage rolls...and quickly fell in love with Bucharest.

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    Someone warned us that Bucharest would be the ugliest city of our trip, but quite on the opposite, there was so much beauty, fading or fresh, so much great architecture, such a cool atmosphere...

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    After a full day and another night in Bucharest we took the train to Brașov. I had contacted tquattro about meeting up but since we had to be in Vienna by Saturday there wasn't time for a tour further north.

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    So after a mere train-hop over the Carpathians we arrived in Brașov. It was interesting and also relaxing and a good second-to-last stop on our journey. An old German settlement it looked quite familiar, we had even more stuffed cabbage rolls, some sun, took a cable car up the local mountain and enjoyed the view, what more could you ask?

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    We had another day in Brașov as we'd take the night train to Budapest from there, so we visited Bran Castle about an hour out of town.

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    So after another good and sunny day in Romania we headed for the train station and boarded an ex-German Intercity sleeper carriage, pretty comfortable, there was even a shower and a restaurant car.

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    - - - Updated - - -

    We had another nice and sunny day in Budapest.

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    From there took a RailJet link to Vienna...

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    Where an evening ICE train would take us back to Frankfurt. We had a whole carriage to ourselves!

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    And back in Frankfurt Central!
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